MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXX No. 5
May / June 2018
A Letter to the Class of 2018
Is This Any Way to Run a University?
Women at MIT
The Obligations of Citizenship
Diversity is Not Enough
The Positive Near-Term Picture
for Federal Research Funding
Engineering Enrollment Data at MIT
Student Leaders Emerge at MIT Conference
to Address Danger of Nuclear War
Looking Forward/Looking Backward
Across the Retirement Line
Promoting Mental Health
and Well-Being at MIT
from the 2018 Senior Survey
Printable Version


Promoting Mental Health and Well-Being at MIT


In his letter in the previous issue of the Faculty Newsletter, Professor Dan Stroock criticized President Reif and Provost Schmidt for focusing attention on sexual harassment more than on student suicide. He strongly objects to the call for all employees (including faculty) to take an online training module on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Awareness.

I support Professor Stroock’s right to state his views but respectfully disagree with some of his statements. His claim that the President and Provost threaten “to remove any faculty member or staff who does not take the sexual harassment course” is false; his claim that the content of the sexual misconduct training “violates every principle for which an MIT education stands” is tendentious. Among the principles MIT promotes is that “every person brings unique qualities and talents to the community and that every individual should be treated in a respectful manner. All members of the MIT community are expected to conduct themselves with professionalism, personal integrity, and respect for the rights, differences and dignity of others.” (Policies and Procedures, Section 9.1) This principle of conduct aligns with efforts to increase faculty awareness of sexual misconduct and the faculty role in prevention and response.

MIT has made substantial investments in mental health and suicide prevention efforts, including adding four new staff in the past two years, the offering of “Let’s Chat” confidential consultations in the main group area, and a new investment in communications, program management, and evaluation staff to promote mental health and well-being through the MindHandHeart Initiative. The Division of Student Life together with Mental Health and Counseling provides a strong infrastructure for student support and well-being. In addition, the CARE Team has transformed the support of students with serious mental health challenges. MIT also supports efforts to promote faculty efficacy such as this video advice and this guide. A faculty member’s experience can be a powerful humanizing element in these discussions.

Mental health and freedom from sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination are not and should not be in tension with each other for attention from the administration or from faculty. In order to thrive as faculty members, we require that our students be physically and psychologically safe and able to learn. I encourage all our colleagues to take these issues seriously, and to become familiar with effective ways of helping our students thrive such as those resources mentioned above.

Edmund Bertschinger
Institute Community and Equity Officer

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Prof. Stroock Responds:

Professor Bershinger's claims that my assertion about the fate of those who refused to take the training course is false even though both I and others were told that refusal would result in loss of their connection to MIT. Thus I do not understand on what he basis his assertion. Secondly, I find it worrying that, although he recognizes my right to express my opinion, he restricts that right to opinions which he does not find "tendentious." Are we now living in Huxley's "Brave New World"?

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